Countries, Ireland

The Bill Murray Irish pitch

What he’ll make of the electric fences enclosing the greens in Portnoo/Narin… it’s the Bill Murray Irish pitch.

Bill, a big golf fan with the classic film Caddyshack in his back catalogue, has been promoting Ireland with a tour of the country.

And wasn’t my old pal Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland with the Great Man just in his element on the links?

Donegal driving

A threeball: With Teasy and Jim

Bill will be playing a host of top courses around the country including my family’s old stomping ground Portnoo/Narin in Co. Donegal.

Nearby Cruit Island, and Portsalon and the new St Patrick’s Links course at Rosapenna just up the coast.

Wicklow wedges

Green, green Wicklow: Druid’s Glen

Druids Glen in my old bailiwick of Co. Wicklow is where matters of state are discussed along with the craic.

And where then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen discussed bailing out the banks with financier, and Greystones’ own Seán Fitzpatrick.

A different turf in Kildare

Home of the turf: Carton House

Neighbouring Kildare may be better known as a county of horse-racing.

But it also boasts some famous golf clubs,.

And who can forget Darren Clarke skulling his Guinness in front of the Europe fans at the K Club after spanking the Yanks.

Bill is opting Mark O’Meara’s Carton House.

West is best

Galway to go: Galway Bay Golf Resort

Galway and The West is Awake, as the traditional song goes, and Co Mayo, another former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny’s back yard.

And that’s where you’ll find Carne Golf Links.

Enniscrone is the jewel of Co. Sligo, so celebrated by Celtic mystic poet WB Yeats.

Our childhood holidays with my Dublin cousins involved more swimming and fo-karting in the West.

But it has some of the finest courses too with Galway Bay Golf Resort and Connemara a magnet for links lovers.

Southern comfort

Steeped in history: Ballybunion here since 1893

While no tour of Ireland would be complete without a trip south to Kerry where Ballybunion is waiting.

And a tip for Bill when he hits Portnoo/Narin just mention Teasy and Jim at the bar and they’ll look after you.

Follow the Bill Murray Irish pitch and his The Links Life series with Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland on YouTube.

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Olympics Flag Day

It’s a vexillologist’s dream, Olympics Flag Day… and there were 206 of them at the opening ceremony.

Of course the majority of them will never be seen again on the podium.

Now flags are really just the costume a country dresses itself up in.

Olympics Flag Day

So just like women and dresses it would never do if you turned up with your best flag.

And then you saw somebody there with the same drapery.

But that is exactly what happened at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

See the Leichtenstein flag

When Leichtenstein turned up for their first Games proudly displaying their blue/red split horizontal flag.

Only to see Games veterans Haiti flying theirs.

And so they did what every lady does… accessorise by adding a crown while Haiti added their coat of arms.

And Haiti has had a redraw

Of course the Olympics are the chance for every country and its athletes to meet people they’d never encountered before.

So just a couple of words here on some flags we’ll see a lot more of in the next couple of weeks.

Made in Japan

Nice one sun

Japan: The Rising Sun flag is one of the most distinctive and easiest to draw… if you’re Giotto.

Japan is said to have been founded by the Sun goddess Amaterasu in the 7th Century BC.

And is an ancestor of first emperor Jimmu… and surely a relative.

Chinese stars

Keep the red flag flying here

China: We all associate China with the Reds but, of course, Communism only dates back 70 odd years.

Not being political here but we prefer an earlier iteration, the Yellow Dragon Flag used by the Qing Dynasty.

Betsy’s bunting

And how it was

USA: The world’s most famous seamstress, you can learn the whole story of the American flag in the City of Brotherly Love.

Of how Betsy Ross sewed the definitive Stars and Stripes in Philadelphia.

And persuaded George Washington to agree to five-pointed stars rather than six because that was easier to sew.

UK OK?

Look who’s dropped in: Boris Johnson

UK: So, you thought you know the story of the Union Jack, actually the Union Flag, the Jack is naval.

It encompasses the St George’s flag of England and its then vassal territory Wales, the Scottish St Andrew’s Cross and the St Patrick’s Saltire.

As was inevitably the way of it the English wanted to tuck the Scots flag up in the corner and the Jocks to have their ceoss dominate.

Until they came up with the drape we all know.

Uber alles

Go for it Gretschen

Germany: The German black, red and yellow horizontal bands derive from the 1848 Year of Revolutions.

And are inspired by the black uniforms with red facings and gold buttons of the Lutzow Free Corps who fought Napoleon.

Happy to share

Pole position: Scotland or Tenerife

Scotland and Tenerife: Vexillologists everywhere know that Scotland and Tenerife share the same flag.

But for those who need a reminder I unpicked the threads of it.

You’ll not see the Saltire fly at the Tokyo Games unless, of course, it’s draped around the shoulders of Jock winners.

That would be a twist on Olympics Flag Day.

But it should have been me, it should have been me.

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Lisbon lie-ins

Paris or Munich players will wake up with sore heads tomorrow morning in Lisbon after tonight’s Champions League final.

Just like many a thousand Scot did 53 years ago when Celtic’s Lisbon Lions became the first British club to win the European Cup.

Scots have long had a special relationship with Portugal with it truly being for many back in the day their first foray off this isle.

So amid all the gloom Portugal’s return to the UK exempt list where we don’t have to self-isolate on our return is truly welcome.

And it is good to see that my new local, Edinburgh Airport is reaching out.

To flag up the delights of Lisbon from £128, Porto from £72 Faro from £172 and Madeira from £452.

All on my list and a next stop after our adventures in the Algarve and Portugal Centro.

Where a lie-in in Fatima is disturbed by the Church bells beckoning you to give praise to Our Lady.

Make ski and mend

And a shout-out here to my old pal and contributor and multi award-winning ski writer Catherine ‘Murphski’ Murphy.

For whom lockdown has been torture because she had to spend half the year down here in the valleys with the rest of us.

Catherine has though flagged up some skiing in Ireland.

Sands slaloms

No, she wasn’t hallucinating.

Rather it is sand skiing in the west of Ireland in Co. Mayo.

And if you thought that was mad then in outdoorsy Colorado I only looked out the coach window to find a woman skiing along the road.

On the lay-by in the heart of summer.

The Ski Club of Ireland

Skiheads will grab their pleasures where they fond them.

And in Ireland, that means the Ski Club of Ireland in Kilternan in Co. Wicklow. And you can always ski home down the road.

A day at my Turkish barber’s

With my old friend Onur on the Bosphorus

The conversation turns at the barber’s, as it always will, to where you’ve been, or are planning to go, on holiday.

Only in these COVID days even the most intrepid traveller is mostly confined to barracks.

But while we wait around to get back on the road we can reminisce.

Up, up and away in Cappodocia

Which is what I’ve been doing with my new Turkish pals at the barber’s shop in North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

About Istanbul and the new airport (Mohammed raised it).

Mohammed flagged up the virtues of the capital, Ankara.

Which I’ve long known about from my old buddy Ireland’s Mr Turkish Airlines himself, and fellow Ankara native Onur.

The cat’s whiskers: Turkey’s ancient ruins

All of which reminisces are well and fine but we must look to the future and researching a trip I’ll keep on the lowdown for now I came across…

My friends at Intrepid Travel are offering £1 deposits for holidays for 2021.

Which includes 15 days Turkey Encompassed from £1186 (down from £1475) starting and finishing in incredible Istanbul.

And taking in Cappadocia, the islands off Kepova, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the hot springs of Pammukale and the war memorial at Gallipoli.